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Realtime Help and Support

What is Help and Support?

This feature within Windows XP allows an expert at FTA to remotely install software, perform maintenance, and debug problems on your instrument in realtime.

How does it work?​

If you are familiar with Windows NetMeeting, this is similar but easier to use. The connection process has been made simpler and it will work through local networks and firewalls that stop NetMeeting.

Help and Support allows a person (the "expert") to see what is on your computer and to operate your computer remotely from the FTA office (in Portsmouth, Virginia or Cambridge, England). The computer-to-computer communication is through the Internet.

Rather than having to know real IP addresses, Help and Support establishes its communication between the computer in the FTA office and your computer (at the instrument) by using Microsoft's Messenger or e-mail. The necessary addresses are obtained automatically from the messages you send to start the session. Static IP addresses are not required.


  • Instrument's computer running XP.

  • A connection to the Internet through

    • your local area network (LAN), or

    • a dial-up connection

    The dial-up connection is a good backup when the computer is not connected to a LAN or your organization's policy prevents this type of connection over its LAN. Being able to step around policy restrictions and firewalls is often convenient. The dial-up account is accessed by connecting the modem in the computer to a telephone line. You will have to program the modem to dial out through your telephone system. This is just your normal procedure for placing a call.

  • Either Microsoft's MSN instant Messenger (IM) or an e-mail account on the instrument's computer.

    If the computer is not normally connected to the Internet, you will need to establish one of these accounts before you begin the Help and Support session. There are free e-mail accounts available (say, from Yahoo!) or you can use MSN. You will need a dial-up account. FTA can provide a temporary account free of charge in some locations; contact FTA for details.

Starting a Session

You will first need an appointment with the FTA representative who will help you. Send an e-mail (a telephone call is not satisfactory) to the FTA office describing what you want to accomplish and when you will be available. Either use the local time for the FTA office or tell us your time zone. Allow an interval of several hours during which we can reserve time for you. FTA will reply to this e-mail address with a specific time and give you the e-mail or IM account at FTA to use. If you are planning to start the actual session with an e-mail message, you should use this same e-mail account to setup the appointment. That will make things easier.

At the appointed time, go to the instrument's computer and click

Start | Help and Support

The new window will have "Ask for assistance" and "Invite a friend to connect to your computer with Remote Assistance". Click this. The next window will have "Invite someone to help you." Click this also.

Choose either MSN's IM or e-mail to send the initiating communication. This communication will start the actual Help and Support session. You must, of course, send it to the address specified in the reply FTA sent you to setup the appointment.

Help and Support Sessions

When you start the session from your instrument's computer, you will have two important choices to make:

  • how long will the session run?

  • will you grant FTA control of your machine?

An hour or two will normally be sufficient for the duration of the session. The time is limited as a protection mechanism for your computer.

FTA will have to have control of your computer if the expert is to install software or perform maintenance. FTA does not need control to simply observe operation. Be aware you will need Administrative priviledges to install software. FTA will have the same priviledge level that you have after you logged on to the computer.

If you need help with installing software, please have the FTA CDROM in the drive before beginning the session. Similarly, if you need help making an upgrade, download the new software first and have it available either on a CDROM or on your hard disk.

The session has a text-based chat window on the left hand side. You can type messages to FTA and FTA will type messages to you. You can save this dialog to a file on your machine as a reference.

Help and Support can also provide voice chat and the sending and receiving of files. These may not be practical if you are using dial-up or there are policy limitations on your LAN connection to the Internet.

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